Mar 31, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Kings defeated the Stars 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Bernier traded to the Maple Leafs: What does this mean for the Blues?

The much anticipated NHL goalie carousel has officially started.

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Kings traded Jonathan Bernier, their highly coveted back-up goalie, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward Matt Frattin, goalie Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick.

Upon the trade, Bernier became the first goalie moved in an offseason where several teams are openly in the market to either add or trade a goalie.

The Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers were all believed to be in the Bernier sweepstakes. In addition, the Wild have inquired about Marc-Andre Fleury’s availability. And, of course, the Vancouver Canucks would love to unload Roberto Luongo’s albatross of a contract.

There has also been a lot of speculation around St. Louis surrounding the Blues goaltending situation. In an article by Jeremy Rutherford on STLtoday.com after the end of the Blues season, General Manager Doug Armstrong described the goaltending situation as “cloudy.”

In the four-month span it took to complete the lockout-shortened 2013 season, Blues fans witnessed what can best be described as a revolving door at the goalie position.

Mar 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak (41) watches the puck go wide during the third period against the Edmonton Oilers at the Scottrade Center. The Oilers defeated the Blues 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The goalie who started the season between the pipes, Jaroslav Halak, failed (once again) to take command as the franchise goalie Doug Armstrong believed he was trading for the summer after his dominating postseason run for the Montreal Canadiens in 2010.

Part of that can be attributed to a lingering groin injury, which kept Halak out of the lineup for much of the season. However, in the 16 games he did play in, Halak posted a pedestrian .899 save percentage. These factors, combined with Halak’s postseason altercation with Ken Hitchcock, have many Blues fans wondering about Halak’s future with the Blues.

The goalie who finished the season in net, Brian Elliott, found himself sitting in the press box for much of the season after an abysmal start. In Elliott’s first nine starts of the season, he posted an .841 save percentage and a 3.11 goals against average.

After a 4-1 loss against the Kings on February 11th, Elliott only played in two games (one start) until April. He even had a brief conditioning stint in Peoria at the end of March just to get some playing time.

However, when Halak went down with a groin injury on April 1st against the Wild, Elliott was thrown into the fire. After getting the win that night, Elliott took hold as the starting goaltender and never looked back.

Starting all but two games in April, Elliott posted a .948 save percentage with a 1.28 goals against average and three shutouts. Elliott’s play was so exemplary, that he was awarded the NHL’s second star for the month. 

Elliott’s play down the stretch was rewarded by the Blues. He started all six games in the playoffs against the Kings, where he continued his solid overall play.

May 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) and St. Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) players shake hands after game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Staples Center. Kings won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

However, a late game-tying goal in Game 1, an overtime goal in Game 5 and a Steve Yzerman-like goal in Game 6 left many Blues fans wondering if Elliott is capable of making the big save when it matters.

In between the season’s start and finish, the Blues witnessed the emergence of top goalie prospect Jake Allen, who carried the Blues throughout stretches of February and March, before tapering off as March carried over into April. Overall, he finished with a .905 save percentage and a 2.46 goals against average.

Allen’s play impressed Armstrong so much, that he endorsed him for a permanent spot on the NHL roster in the same article by Rutherford mentioned earlier:

“He’s certainly proven based on his work this year that he’s at the point now where I don’t think he’s going back to the American Hockey League,” Armstrong said. “I don’t think he needs more seasoning. He’s one of three right now … he has proven to me that he deserves an opportunity to play in the NHL.”

With three NHL-caliber goalies on the roster, one would have to think that a trade is in the cards for the Blues. Rutherford echoed this sentiment in a recent chat with Blues fans on STLtoday:

 Q: JR: Hello to you! Do you expect the Blues to make any trades and do you see them keeping three goalies?

A: I think there will be a trade at some point and no, I do not see any situation on this Earth why they would have three goalies on opening night.

With Allen seemingly the goaltender of the future, it is safe to assume that either Halak or Elliott are the candidates to be traded. Both only have a year left on their current deals with very reasonable cap hits. Who is actually traded will depend a lot on the value returning to the Blues.

With the Bernier trade completed, expect a domino effect to ensue. Teams that were in the Bernier sweepstakes will turn their attention to other prospects. Armstrong is now in a position to shop both goalies and orchestrate the best deal possible in the days leading up to the draft and free agency.

The demand for goalies is at a high this offseason and the Blues have a surplus at the position. Armstrong may be able to use this high demand as leverage. As teams get more desperate to solve their goaltending situation, the value for either Halak or Elliott may rise.

One thing is for sure: it is going to be a very interesting offseason for Blues fans.

EDIT:

As this was published, Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reported that the Wild and goalie Niklas Backstrom have come to terms on a three-year extension.

 

Tags: Brian Elliott Doug Armstrong Jake Allen Jaroslav Halak Jonathan Bernier St. Louis Blues

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